After reading James Kendrick’s post on how he could get real work done with keyboards that were the same width as the iPad mini, I was intrigued. I had originally been pooh-poohing those Bluetooth keyboards because I figured they would be way too small to actually touch type on. However, James posted to the contrary. I waited a while before getting a keyboard for my iPad mini because a) I already had a ZAGGKeys keyboard for my iPad 2 that I could repurpose for the few times I felt like blogging from my iPad mini, and b) I didn’t anticipate needing a BT keyboard very much. The iPad mini is not my main device. My Optimus G Pro often serves as my mini-tablets these days.
Cut to yesterday when I decided to take the plunge. I misremembered which Logitech keyboard James had reviewed. I bought the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini by mistake, but no matter, because it looks and works great. I suspect that the layout is the same as the Logitech mini keyboard folio case James had written about. It’s definitely small, and probably not comfortable for hugely extensive writing projects, but for me and my occasional blogging/writing, I think this is a pretty good keyboard.
After less than half a day of testing it out, I am comfortably touch typing with it. Yes, it’ll take a little while to get used to such a tiny keyboard, but for me, not a dealbreaker. The keys have a great feel and travel, not mushy at all. The finish of the underside, which becomes the front cover of the iPad mini “laptop” perfectly matches the finish of my black iPad mini’s aluminum case. The only thing I am a little wary about is that my iPad mini is naked, with no back cover. But in exchange, when the keyboard is snapped onto the front of the mini like the magnetic Smart Cover that Apple sells, the whole package is so thin, light, and sleek. And even if I don’t always use the keyboard, it makes a nice stand for the mini. The groove into which the iPad mini is placed has some magnets which help stabilize the device, a nice touch.
All in all, I’m pretty happy with the purchase. It satisfies both the gadgety toy and productive tool sides of the equation. 🙂
I impulsively ordered the ZeroLemon extended battery for the Optimus G Pro after I’d read an article proclaiming their availability. They were pretty cheap on Amazon, so I decided to take a chance. I just got the battery yesterday and put it on charge as much as I could during the day and overnight. This thing is huge, obviously, considering the stock battery is 3140 mAh compared to the 9300 mAh of the ZeroLemon battery.
With the battery and the flexible, but protective TPU case installed, the G Pro becomes quite a handful. I don’t mind the extra bulk if I can get multi-day use out of one charge, but the weight is a pretty difficult thing for me and my wrists to handle. I was going to try and use the extended battery during this upcoming week, but after just about a day of using the device with the battery installed, my wrists are crying. So it’ll have to be relegated to occasions where it’s absolutely necessary, like all-day trade shows, auto shows, or photo walks.
Although I obviously didn’t get to use the battery and run it all the way down, I noticed that only a few percentage points of battery level were consumed by my routine morning’s usage. This gives me confidence that using this battery would comfortably get me through a 12-hr day, even with a lot of network and camera usage, two huge battery-zapping activities.
The TPU case is decent, with its texture providing a lot more grip than either OEM battery covers/cases I have. With the battery and case installed, the phone feels solid and chunky. Perhaps those with larger hands would not be bothered by all the extra weight. Sadly, the new Joby GripTight Mount I bought would not be able to hold the G Pro + extended battery, but I could probably find an alternative.
I’m definitely looking forward to putting the battery through its paces sometime, but for now I have to give my wrists a rest. *ouch*
I am not up for doing a whole write up at the moment, but suffice it to say that the camera on the LG Optimus G Pro is awesome. The macro mode is so great! Witness:
Edited in Pixlr Express.
I’ve been really happy finally running Jelly Bean on my Galaxy Note. Google Now is pretty useful. The device overall seems less crashy and more responsive. The tweaks added to some custom ROMs are really cool, whether it’s something like per-app DPI settings, or additions to the notification drawer. But of course these ROMs are beta products, so it’s not all kittens and rainbows.
Case in point, my GPS reception is absolutely horrible now. I have tried different ROMs and even a different kernel and still have GPS issues. It’s a major bummer because a) I play Ingress, so having decent GPS is key, and b) I do use nav and location-based apps a fair amount, so all of that is hugely affected by the poor GPS performance. Apparently Samsung devices were already kind of poor with GPS reception compared to other brands, but now running a custom ROM is making things worse. I really don’t want to go back to stock but I may just have to bite the bullet while I haven’t bought a replacement phone.
If anyone has any suggestions for how to fix my GPS reception and still run a custom ROM, that’d be greatly appreciated.
Hey, All. I’ve been messing around with custom Android ROMs on my Galaxy Note recently and thought I’d post my thoughts on the ROMs and why I went this route to begin with. Of course, there are many out there who want to root and load custom ROMs as soon as possible, but I didn’t want to deal with the hassle. I wanted to wait until I got the official Jelly Bean update from Samsung because supposedly it was coming in March. AFAIK, the original Note STILL hasn’t gotten an update, but I stopped caring after Samsung’s ridiculously crappy and sexist S4 launch event. However you may feel about that lame S4 event, it was the last straw for me.
I really like my Galaxy Note. It’s a unique mobile device that basically jump started the trends for uber-large Android phones as well as devices with styli coming back into vogue (a little). I think Samsung did a great job of creating a new market segment and dominating it. I still hear lots of people singing the praises of the Galaxy Note 2, which I totally wanted to upgrade to before all this. It got super irritating to see all other Samsung devices, some on AT&T, getting their JB updates day after day, week after week, while the Note got left out in the cold. Then the S4 fiasco happened, and it pushed me over the fence to finally seek out Jelly Bean ROMs to try.
There’s no technical reason for the Note not to get a JB update. It’s not like when older iOS devices were denied firmware updates because their hardware wasn’t up to snuff. My Note is currently running a Jelly Bean-based custom ROM and it’s humming along nicely. In fact, I daresay that many older devices benefit from running ICS or JB because the two versions are more optimized and seem to run more smoothly than Gingerbread or Honeycomb did. Plus oddball devices like the NOOK Color that don’t have the typical Android buttons benefit from the virtual nav bar of ICS and JB.
No More Samsung For Me
Anyway, because of Samsung’s lame behavior (even before the S4 event), I decided that a) I wouldn’t wait anymore for an official update, and b) my next Android device is NOT going to be a Samsung device. Besides, Samsung is dominating Android devices now, and I am inclined to seek out the “underdogs” and help them along. It’s too bad because I was crazily eager to get a Note 8.0 because I love smaller tablets and feel that my Galaxy Note is a bit too small to comfortably write on. I think the Note 8.0 would’ve been an ideal inking tablet, but now I am not even considering it. Same for the Galaxy Camera, another shame.
I’m actually pretty interested in the following devices: Sony Xperia Z, HTC One, LG Optimus G Pro, and the OPPO Find 5. I’ve always loved Sony products, and the Xperia Z looks like a great device (waterproof!). The HTC One is getting a lot of praise for the hardware design, rightfully so. The LG Optimus G Pro is essentially a Note 2 knock off. And actually, I’m tickled by LG’s blatant cloning (and/or beating Samsung to the punch) of Samsung devices/features because it’s giving Samsung a big dose of their own medicine. Besides, the Nexus 4 looks like a nice LG device. The OPPO Find 5 is a pretty oddball device, but I think it looks great and it has an interesting hardware HDR capture feature. Because I have a stubborn streak in me that tends to like things that the mainstream doesn’t, the OPPO Find 5 kind of speaks to that side of me. But I also tend to get frustrated by lack of accessories and other support for oddball devices, so I don’t know if I’ll really end up getting the Find 5. The Xperia Z is at the top of my list so far. And actually, as I was searching for Xperia Z photos, I found out there is a purple one! My decision is made! 😀
photo credit: Droid Life
Fun With Custom ROMs
So, back to the custom ROMs. I started out with the Avatar ROM because I stumbled across a video by the bloggers at RootGalaxyNote.com that showed off the features and had notes on how to install the custom ROM. Up until now I haven’t done much to my Android devices beyond rooting them in the past (mainly to silence obnoxious shutter sounds or to add screenshot capabilities and customizing fonts…minor stuff) because the process seemed rather annoying and error-prone. Well, it seemed like that for the ATRIX 4G since Motorola did their damnedest to keep the bootloader locked down. I didn’t research much about it because I just didn’t want to deal with the fuss at the time. Samsung devices seemed to be more easily modified. So I finally loaded a custom ROM on my Note a couple weeks (?) ago. Good stuff! I really like the changes in 4.2.2 with the lockscreen widgets, Google Now, and all that. The jump between the stock ICS ROM for the Note and 4.2.2 is pretty significant. BTW, I think that the Samsung devices that have gotten official JB updates are stuck at 4.1.2, so that further validated my decision to stop waiting for the official update from Samsung.
S Pen Still Works Like a Charm
I did lose the S Pen apps like S Memo, but even before going the custom ROM route, my main digital inking was done in an app called Papyrus. It’s great because I can set it up to only allow inking from the S Pen, and configure finger input as an eraser (two-finger pinching zooms, and two-finger swiping moves the canvas around). And you can finally export inked pages to JPG or PNG. It used to only support PDF export. So as long as Papyrus worked under this custom ROM, I was good to go on the S Pen route. There’s also an app called GMD SPen [sic] Control for rooted devices that adds S Pen gesture support, which is a nice addition, but I haven’t used it much yet.
Finally, Google Now!
I felt like I had a new device. I liked configuring lockscreen widgets, though truth be told, I didn’t use them a whole lot (though I might as time goes by). But having Google Now on my phone is awesome. I know some people think it’s creepy, but I like it. It alerts me about traffic to places of interest; I’ve gotten notifications about my brother and sister-in-law’s vacation flights since they e-mailed me the flight info for reference; and of course there are the notifications about weather and nearby events. Very cool stuff.
Running Tablet Apps
I wanted to try running some tablet-only apps on my Note, and for some reason could not find any guides on how to do this. I think I was using the wrong search terms. My first plan of action was to try a hybrid ROM called JellyBam that incorporates Paranoid Android ROM preferences to both use tablet or “phablet” UI for the home screens, and set per-app DPI settings. I thought perhaps it would also set some kind of flag or something to spoof the Play Store into thinking my Note was a tablet. However, this didn’t end up being the case. After installing JellyBam, I tried some different Paranoid Android settings but the Play Store continued to deem my phone incompatible with tablet apps.
Then I finally started searching for build.prop edits to make a phone look like a tablet. This lead me to an article on Android Police for an app called Market Helper. It does some voodoo to trick the Play Store into thinking your device is something else, apparently without editing the build.prop? I don’t know exactly how it works.
It’s kind of fussy because you have to choose from a device in the drop-down menu, then visit your Google Dashboard to complete the tweak. Rebooting your device clears out the changes. So while I can now download both phone and tablet apps, it’s not exactly as easy as flipping a switch. But I guess it is easier than switching build.prop edits.
The JellyBam ROM itself is pretty nice, a customization freak’s dream. I only just loaded it yesterday, so I haven’t been able to dig very deep into all the features. But if you have a compatible device, I’d say check it out. If you guys have any other ROMs you feel are worth checking out, please let me know.
One Last Item: NOOK Color and Jelly Bean
I don’t have a Nexus 7. Up until recently I thought my next Android tablet would be the Galaxy Note 8.0. But now I’m kind of at a loss of what other 8-inch Android tablets are out there that aren’t “craplets”. I did a little bit of searching and saw that Toshiba has a 7.9-inch tablet that seems promising. Otherwise there are the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 and the Nook HD+, both of which aren’t that stable as far as rooting and custom ROMs are concerned (that I could see; correct me if I’m wrong).
So I decided to upgrade my NOOK Color to CM10 after reading some guides and finding out that there are CM10 nightlies for the device. I’ve always liked the hardware build of the NOOK Color. It was sluggish when I played around with custom ROMs before, but it was partially because I was running CM7 (?) off an SD card instead of installing it internally. I figure I won’t be selling this thing, so I went ahead an installed to the EMMC (I think that’s the terminology). The software works pretty well. However, I figured out something that is preventing me from continuing to use it as a regular device — it’s ridiculously heavy for its size! I am used to a Galaxy Note and an iPad mini (my two primary devices). The NOOK Color is way heavier than the iPad mini. And while I tried to use the Color for most of a day, my arms and wrists just protested at the weight. This is why I don’t like 10-inch tablets, too heavy and unwieldy for long-time usage. Sadly the NOOK Color is the same. And I’m sure the HP TouchPad would be as well (I haven’t updated it to JB, it’s still on an old build of ICS). What a bummer! Sony has a pretty nice Xperia Z tablet, but IIRC it is a 10-inch tablet. I may make an exception for it, though, who knows.
If anyone has any suggestions for a good 8-inch or so Android tablet, let me know. And remember, no Samsung devices. 😛